Right of appeal for sex offenders register

It is being reported this morning that sex offenders will be given the right to appeal their placement on a police register. The change follows a Supreme Court ruling that the lifelong restrictions were contrary to human rights law.

As I posted in April last year, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that lifelong requirements for sex offenders to notify the police when they move house or travel abroad are a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to privacy and family life.

Lord Phillips, giving the leading judgment, said:

I think that it is obvious that there must be some circumstances in which an appropriate tribunal could reliably conclude that the risk of an individual carrying out a further sexual offence can be discounted to the extent that continuance of notification requirements is unjustified. As the courts below have observed, it is open to the legislature to impose an appropriately high threshold for review.

He also doubted that this would lead to any significant practical problems resulting from a right of appeal:

Registration systems for sexual offenders are not uncommon in other jurisdictions. Those acting for the first respondent have drawn attention to registration requirements for sexual offenders in France, Ireland, the seven Australian States, Canada, South Africa and the United States. Almost all of these have provisions for review.

A government source told the BBC: “We have no choice but to implement the Supreme Court judgement. There is no right of appeal.” This is slightly disingenuous. The government has a legal obligation under the Human Rights Act to ensure that laws are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Supreme Court interprets the law and decides whether a provision is compatible. Parliament then has a choice as to how it will proceed.

The Home Secretary has also said to MPs:

It is time to assert that parliament makes our laws, not the courts, that the rights of the public come before the rights of criminals and, above all, that we have a legal framework that brings sanity to cases such as these.

The change to the law will be politically unpopular. So it is convenient to blame judges, who will no doubt again be referred to as unelected and unaccountable. But every time the government absolves itself of responsibility for upholding human rights, it corrodes public confidence in them. The European Convention is not judge-made and judge-led, but rather was passed into law by Parliament. It is questionable how many people now realise this.

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21 thoughts on “Right of appeal for sex offenders register

  1. Registry seemed like a good idea for America too, but be very, very wary in how it is implemented or a serious recourse will follow. Many in America, particularly young adults, have lost rights, jobs, homes and family because of the laws behind it. For them, life is non-existent from the vigilantism, unemployment, no place to live and plain nonacceptance. The registry for non-violent sex offenders only creates more havoc. Don’t let hysteria blind and pursue before reason.

  2. It seems that Cameron has said he will comply minimally with this ruling. This demonstrates that it is not just the European Court of Human Rights which these people dislike. They also dislike any court which rules against them.

  3. Not all human rights ought to be automatically and irrevocably available to each and every person. For example, a person who leaves his home with house breaking tools and the firm intent to break into another’s home and steal its contents ought to have some of his rights denied – with effect from the moment that he leaves home (or takes the decision) because of his wilfull intention to ignore the rights of his victims and to place himself outside the law.

    That does not mean all of his rights, but some.

    If this idea can be recognised then a tarif of offenses and rights can be drawn up that would satisfy both the general population – and the currently absurd rulings of the Euro court.

    On a related topic:

    Just as those who are gay or hetro are defined by their sexual orientation, so are paedofiles. Or should be.

    This should be recognised, and then the needs of society to safeguard its children can be met.

    A gay man can not change his orientation – so, too, a paedofile cannot change his natural sexual orientation.

    Once this is understood, then the question of removal from the Sex Offenders Register answers itself. His offence carries the tarif that he must remain on the register until death.

  4. I am a paedophile. Or perhaps more correctly, a hebephile.

    I looked at pictures of girls on the internet and for this I was jailed. First offence of any kind.

    I was also put on the sex-ofenders register for 10 years ( effectively for life as I am an older man). This has had a serious effect on my health and devastated my family.

    I refuse to accept that looking at a picture is equivalent to a violent attack as the sentencing would seem to suggest.

    Life as a sex-offender is impossible.

  5. It is not aquestion for the registry. A person is listed if he/she committed a crime. Violationg the human rights of a person does not excempt you from getting in the list. The bottomline is you were included because you violated the human rights of your victim. So what is there to appeal for?

  6. I thought twice about leaping into this debate. Anyway here goes.

    @OneToSeeChange
    The system of registry in the United Kingdom is altogether different from that propagated in the United States, in that sense it could be said that there is no “Megan’s law” (something, I add has been actively campaigned for by various newspapers at various times, most recently by The Sun and the Daily Mail in respect of “Sarah’s Law” – a reference to the Soham Murder). Should you wish any further information see a rather helpful Q&A provided by the Guardian newspaper online: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2006/jan/18/childrensservices.politics1

    @ObiterJ
    I think the WMS is interesting from the perspective that seemingly the Government believes the maintenance of the Sexual Offenders Register to be something that is “administrative” i.e. compiled and managed by the Police as opposed to “judicial” i.e. subject to legal process. (see: http://www.parliament.uk/business/news/2011/february/statement-on-sex-offenders-register/ video and audio, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110216/debtext/110216-0001.htm#11021651000004 commons and http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldtoday/16.htm lords -the debates themselves are quite fascinating).

    My immediate reaction was that the idea is novel and might itself be challenged in court. Section 1 of the Sex Offenders Act 1997: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1997/51/section/1 envisions three scenarios which might make you subject to the notification requirements, the only non-judicial route being “cautioned by a constable” after admitting an offence but even that is considered a guilty plea. The idea that a constable as a matter of “administration” could consider and then remove you from the list is an interesting (edit. controversial) idea.

    @DavidWorsley
    You wrote:

    “Not all human rights ought to be automatically and irrevocably available to each and every person.”

    You are (perhaps without realising) challenging a fundamental aspect of the human rights movement namely “the universality of rights”. Human rights accrue as a consequence of being “a human” rather than as a corollary to being a good citizen or member of society.

    If you argued that Art 8 isn’t a universal right or that Article 8 doesn’t extend to the reporting requirements of sexual offenders. Some might agree. An even more sophisticated line of attack might be that the ECHR gives the state the responsibility of balancing Art 8 rights and having considered that issue in 1997 Parliament arrived at the solution currently outlined in the legislation, and therefore the Supreme Court is wrong having considered European jurisprudence to arrive at the conclusion it did. Even more people might agree. But the idea that certain actions committed by humans somehow cancels out the rights they have by virtue of being human is illogical.

    Turning to your last point which I think, attempts to parse out scientific arguments about whether sexual preference is itself a psychological or physiological question, while fascinating as a debate does not address the fundamental issue which is whether an eleven year old (in the case of F) could some years after the commission of the offence seek to remove themselves from the register. Under the existing law, this child, is trapped in a forever punishment, regardless of his future conduct or whether he in fact remains a threat to society. Is this right? I don’t think so.

    @PeterBroadbent
    No-one has addressed your complaint head on, but I am more than happy to. Parliament has decided that individuals who look at child pornography commits an offence. This offence is subject to the notification requirement contained in the Sex Offenders Act 1997. Parliament has not created any equivalency between those that attack children and those that look at them – in fact they created two separate offences and punishments to deal with these different offenders. The law takes each offender as it finds them and while you committed the offence for which you were convicted of and sentenced for in later life – this same law applies to individuals that commit the same offence at an earlier age. Your refusal to accept that “looking at a picture is equivalent to a violent attack” is a matter for you. The Sentencing Council has however determined otherwise.

    • Corrupted Mind wrote

      “Parliament has decided that individuals who look at child pornography …”

      You assume incorrectly that the pictures I looked at were child pornography.

      @ Human Rights March

      That the S/O register protects children is a fraudulent claim. Almost all harm to children is at the hands of parents and other familiar persons unknown to the authorities.

  7. Lets create a Drug Abuse Register, Alcohol Abuse Register, Drink Drivers Register, Burgulars Register, Shoplifters Register, Liars Register, Smokers Register, Fat Persons Register, Slim Persons Register.. Why not create a Register for every catagory you can think of. Lets all go mad. People make mistakes, thats because we are HUMAN. Lets all become Tick Box Subjects. Let us all bow to the Arseholes With Power. Let us create a Register for people who are on a register.
    THE WORLD HAS GONE MAD……

  8. @Alistair

    If you have children whom you love I think that you would want them to be safe from sex offenders. If you have the children you would definitely look at the register to protect your children. It’s not madness it’s called protection and awareness.

    • I fully understand that and i know that nearly half of these EVIL BA****DS need a bullet in their heads. But there is too much going on about al this register stuff. Either lock them away for a very long time, without parole or let the public take care of them. Each case should be made public when found guilty and photos of the guilty person be made available as well. But remember, there are some innocent people who are on there as well because they have been fausly accused.
      I think the best way yo go about this and to get the truth out of people is to Hypnotise them under strict conditions with a Lawyer, Prosecutor, Judge & Doctors present. This way it will sort the Wheat from the Chaft, if you know what i mean.
      But having a register does not protect people. If it did then why do they still offend?
      Please dont get me wrong, i hate them as much as any other normal person and i would kill/die to protect an innocent child from such inhuman acts.

      • I think you demonstrate the phobic reaction that is common in these matters, even among otherwise rational folk.

        You advocate the death penalty and ‘”let the public take care of them” … (the same thing I assume), but only after the accused has had the ‘truth’ wrung out of him by your comic inquisition.

        Let me save you and your witchfinders some time…. I happily confirm that I have looked at pictures of girls..

        Am I “evil”?….am I to receive the “bullet in the head”?

    • Thank you for being honest for those who are innocent. But bear in mind that you won’t be in a list if you are not a repeater of the offense. In some ways it gives peace of mind to the community to be able to identify these offenders.

      • @Human Rights March wrote;

        “… you won’t be in a list if you are not a repeater of the offense. ”

        What list? The sex-offenders register overwhelmingly consists of first offenders.

        The SO register is not a reflection of what one HAS done, but what one might do.

  9. @ Corrupt Mind,

    I never said that you looked at child porn pictures. i apologise if it sounded like that.

  10. @PeterBroadbent
    Apologies, I took the view (incorrectly) that you would prefer that I described your activities as a sub-genre of something relatively mainstream (i.e. pornography) rather than as an offence under section 1 of the Protection of Children Act 1978 which involves “any indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph of a child”.

    @AlistairGoldie
    No offence taken. In answer to your first comment, Parliament has decided that individuals found guilty of certain offences present a peculiar risk to society and therefore requires a further registration and notification requirement. In relation to your list above, criminal offences carry a registration (of a kind) in the form of a criminal record, obviously liars and smokers do not obtain criminal records because Parliament has determined that their conduct does not merit legislation (although that might not always be the case). In relation to your second comment, the aim of the register is not to “prevent” reoffending but as an aid to manage the risk that this particular group of individuals presents to society. Its crude and some might argue its ineffective but then that is another argument altogether.

    • Corrupted mind wrote…

      “Apologies, I took the view (incorrectly) that you would prefer that I described your activities as a sub-genre of something relatively mainstream (i.e. pornography) rather than as an offence under section 1 of the Protection of Children Act 1978 which involves “any indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph of a child”.”

      Sparing my feelings had nothing to do with it.

      My description “pictures of girls” was perfectly accurate… feel free to use it.

      To accuse a person of involvement with child pornography (and implicitly condoning child abuse)… is to set that person outside of the human family. To allow them to be villified as Alistair Goldie demonstrates.

      I have become resigned to the fact of being a pariah, being attacked and abused, being the media hate figure.

      Human Rights? Nice idea.

      • @PeterBroadbent
        No. I think you missed the point of my post. “Pictures of Girls” as a description of your conduct does not suffice as it encompasses a range of activities (some fo which are legal). You were convicted of an offence (hence you being placed on the Sexual Offenders register). I am not trying to set you outside the “human family” as you put it. But equally I am not trying to condone what is, by virtue of your conviction, criminal conduct.

        As an aside, I find your “frankness” about the effects of being placed on the register illuminating (and helpful) but your lack of remorse and attempts to justify your conduct ironic (in the sense that your arguments reinforce the prevailing societal view that individuals guilty of such offences need to be continually monitored even after release).

        This blog post and comments thread is about the circumstances within which offenders might be removed and I find it inconceiveable that any scheme would not include remorse as a prerequisite for eligibility.

        @AlistairGoldie
        Punishment for thoughts. Now that is a very interesting concept indeed.

  11. Maybe everyone should be on the Sex Offenders Register, then no one can argue then, as we al have secret thoughts about people from an early age.

  12. Does anyone have any views on Taplin v Probation 2004 about Appellant or Maintainig Innocence?

    ‘It was deemed by a court of law to be unreasonable to impose course work on a person whom has maintained innocence throughout their sentence. This has recently been acknowledged by the Parole Board. This also applies to appellants.
    Having been informed of the relevant case any probation officer intend to breaking the law then becomes liable to a charge of misfeasance in public office. This can carry a custodial sentence.

    Sentence Planning:
    None maintainig their innocence and/or are an appellant should be subject to sentence planning and the OASys assessment. All appellants and those maintaining innocence should be deemed as Medium Risk. This is because an appellant or a person maintaining innocence cannot be assessed to be either high risk or low risk. the probation service will attempt tagging a high risk rating to prevent parole. This is wholly wrong and should be corrected before the parole date.
    A high-risk rating will be detrimental to your parole chances.

    The term In-Denial:
    The term ‘In-Denial’ is a psychological term and cannot be used unless you have been assessed by a qualified psychologist. If you have not been assessed, it therefore becomes slanderouse for any officer or official to use this term against you.
    If it is in written form or incoporated in a report, it is termed libelouse and as with slander, proceedings can be taken against the individual responsible for its use.

    You have rights, so check them out, and stand up for yourself.

    Judicial Review.
    Where a prisoner had breached a condition of his licence by refusing to take part in a sex offenders treatment programme on the basis that he maintained his innocence, evidence to that effect went to the manifestly central issue of the reasonableness of imposing the condition and a failiure to take such evidence into account when considering a later release on licence rendered the decision of the parole board unfair.
    The claimant, T, sought to quash the decision of the parole board, P, to refuse to release him on licence folowing a recall to prison.
    T, had ben convicted of Sex Offences.
    He had been automatically released on licence after serving 2/3 of his sentence. However, he had been recalled to prison because he failed to comply with a licence condition that he take part in a SOTP.
    T, made written representations but P, refused to release him on licence on the basis that his non compliance with the licence condition rendered him the risk of future offending unacceptably high. T, argued that, when considering his representations, P, had not had before it evidence considering his refusal to take part in SOTP.
    The evidence indicated that his refusal was based on the fact that he maintained his innocence of the crimes of which he had been convicted and in those circumstances the condition requiring him to take part in SOTP was Unreasonable as it required him to admit guilt.

    Held:
    The fact that evidence concerning the reasons for T’s refusal to take part in SOTP had not been before P, rendered the latters decision unfair.
    In the circumstances where T’s refusal to take part was bases on his assertion of innocence, the issue of Reasonableness of imposing the condidtion was manifestly central.
    T’s evidence concerned had been put before the court and whilst the court did not accept that it led to the conclusion that P, was not entitled to regard it’s decision as wholly reasonable, had the material been available it was possible that P could have come to a different conclusion.
    Accordingly the decision would be quashed.

    …………………………………………………………………..

    I would be interested to know any of your views on this and if anyone has had the same problems.

    Also may i bring up about Recalls…… About Abuse by the Probation Service and Rule 5 (vi)……

    Probation Officers need to be more accountable. One way to do this is to challenge the recall. Many of the recall dossiers i have seen quote Rule % (vi) of the licence conditions as having been contravened. Rule 5 (vi) states… ‘should be well behaved and not do anything which could undermine the purpose of your supervision, nor commit any offence’.
    If you have/had been recaled quoting this rule as the reason, you have the power to challenge this. In 2000, the European Court of Human Rights declared in the case of Hashman and Harrup v UK that this wording was inadequate and not precise, and was therefore in contravention of the rule of law in that it was not clear or precise. To say that a person should be ‘wel behaved’ was not precise in that a person could not know what was considered ‘good behaviour’. Under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998 in which the above case is stated says, ‘Well behaved breaches Article 10 in that it had not been defined with precision, it was not clear to the applicants what they had to refrain from in the future’.

    ……………………………………………………

    I would be interested in comments on both these please.

  13. Somebody stated that an individual is not put on the offenders list for one offense. This is incorrect. In the state of Texas they put you on a list regardless of the number of offenses and then make life hell for the individual. So even if it was consensual and there were few years between the indidivudals the offender gets put on a list. This sucks, ruins lives unnecessarily, and they have statistics that prove that 87% of the accused are falsely accused in this state, but still they fill these prisons.

    Now, I love my children as much as anybody can, but I find that the laws are rediculous and highly reactionary and the schools do not help, they enable the bad behavior. Believe me I do have personal experience with all this.

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